Decasia: The State of Decay (DVD)

Directed by Bill Morrison

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Decasia: The State of Decay (DVD)

With his non-narrative film trilogy, Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi, Godfrey Reggio used documentary-style footage to create a metaphoric wake-up call for humanity, portraying a dangerous global imbalance between nature and civilization. The late Stan Brakhage also eschewed formal storytelling, manipulating the physical medium to make movies about film itself. Bill Morrison’s remarkable Decasia falls somewhere between these approaches. Using remnants of decaying film stock culled from archives, Morrison places images from disparate sources together, combining badly damaged cowboy movies with eroding ethnographic footage of whirling dervishes and carpet weavers. But the original context of the images is not as important as the result of their decay: by turns achingly gorgeous and horribly distorted. Perhaps most striking of all is one passage in which a fighter seems to battle a dark, formless blob of oblivion. As these endlessly compelling images unfold, they establish Morrison’s almost accidental subtext: decay is something wholly natural, but no less disturbing in its slow destruction. This feeling of sinister beauty is driven home by Michael Gordon’s evocative score, which crests and recedes, providing a discreet rhythm to the film. In the end, Decasia is an oddly emotional cinematic experience.

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